After playing in one of the most topsy-turvy Grand Slam finals in women’s tennis history, Victoria Azarenka asserted herself as the top player in the world—right?
The highlights would say otherwise, as Azarenka struggled to keep pace with the aggressive Li Na while simultaneously trying to win over the hostile Aussie crowd. The injuries sustained by Li in the second and third set greatly helped Azarenka grab Grand Slam and Australian Open title No. 2.
With the win, Azarenka secured the No. 1 ranking, but was her victory Down Under convincing? What does Azarenka need to do to truly become the world's best?
More Consistent Results
Before her Aussie win, Azarenka was coming off a bad ending to 2012, where she looked completely exhausted in her final two matches of the year and went 2-2 in the year-ending Championships.
Though her fall season wasn’t too shabby (winning Beijing and Linz), she looked more than ready to put her feet up at the year-end championships than compete and prove her No. 1 ranking.
Luckily for Azarenka, this next month features hard courts (her best surface). She should use this opportunity to let Sharapova and Williams know that she is keen on staying on top.
More Wins over Williams
Though she did overcome major adversity in Melbourne, there was one player she didn’t have to face—Williams. Actually, Azarenka and Williams have done a remarkable job avoiding each other this season, first in Brisbane where Azarenka withdrew with a toe injury after a bad pedicure and then in Melbourne after Williams failed to reach the semifinals.
Although the last encounter was close (see 2012 U.S. Open final) Azarenka still holds a 1-11 head-to-head record against Williams.
It’s no argument that Williams is the most dominant player of this generation, and players like Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters became more convincing top players because they beat her on big stages (Henin at three of the four Slams and Clijsters at the U.S. Open).
Azarenka needs a big win over Williams, either at a Slam or premier event, to prove her ranking.
Restore Faith in Her Fanbase
Azarenka cannot continue her success by playing the villain role. Part of being the best player is also being adored by tennis fans, like Roger Federer and Kim Clijsters.
Feistiness has always been her game, but she needs to treat her opponents with respect. No doubt it will take a couple of months for her to get past her Sloane Stephens medical-timeout fiasco, but she should use this time to remind fans why they should cheer for her by letting her tennis do the talking.
Azarenka is back in action this week in Doha since her Aussie title, and as the defending champion, she just might meet Williams in the finals. This week’s tournament would put some doubts to rest if Azarenka were to best Williams for the title, while keeping the world No. 1 ranking.
Azarenka’s game is a higher level than former world No. 1’s Caroline Wozniacki, Dinara Safina and Jelena Jankovic; however, she should focus on these three aspects to really be considered the top player in the world.
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